ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For a young child, learning begins with play. This week, a University of New Mexico resource center that embraces that concept is celebrating its 20-year anniversary. Wemagination lets a child’s imagination flourish.

Corks, chess pieces, objects of all colors and shapes allow children to use their creativity.

“Wemagination is a place that stands through children’s learning through play,” explained Lois Vermilya, director of the Family Development Program, which runs the Wemagination Resource Center.

“The trainings focus on developmentally appropriate learning through open-ended play, and supports that learning with clean, high-quality recyclable materials such as pieces of foam, wood, fabric, paper, corks and other loose parts obtained from individuals and a strong network of business and corporate donors,” she said.

Kristi Goldade, a preschool teacher at the Elevation Children’s Center, said, “They provide little loose parts, beads and seashells and recycled material you wouldn’t think would be made into art.”

Recyclable materials that ordinarily would be tossed are now tools to inspire 3 to 5-year-old children in classrooms around the state.

One child, Mateo, showed KRQE his contribution to their city they created.

“It’s a rocket,” he said.

Melissa Scott, another preschool teacher at the Elevation Children’s Center, said, “By forcing them to use these random objects, they actually had to think through what they know about the world in a deeper way.”

“To us, it just looks like corks and beads and feathers, but for the child who made this, it was a bird,” Scott said.

“You develop a better understanding of how children make sense of things,” she said.

Wemagination reaches about 1,000 New Mexico children a year.